Link building and Page Rank (Revisited)

We originally wrote this post in 2008. We’ve revisited it now, 9 years later to dust it off and bring it up to the times.

Since 2008 much has changed in the major search engines, the overall search climate, link building and page rank and the Internet at large. Sem like a million years ago now, probably at least a thousand years in internet time.

In 2008 we said “There are all types of schemes and arguments for link building and page rank”.

Probably still holds true in terms of link building, not so much in terms of page rank. Overall page rank, at least as it was defined then with respect to Google and its value at that time is no longer viable. Google did away with the page ranking tool and page ranking itself to a great extent, At least, the public visibility of it. What I did say back in 2008 about page ranking was this:

“Page rank is a number from 0 to 10 Google attaches to every page on the Internet that it indexes. Page rank is like a vote for your site. It is extremely difficult to rank much higher than about 7 unless you are a huge corporation then you should rank that higher or higher. (Although I run across many that aren’t doing there job well because they don’t). If you are a small business having a page rank of 4, 5, 6 or 7 is excellent. Basically, the higher the page rank the more authority Google is saying your page has according to them and the better chance of you ranking more highly. Page ranking is mathematically configured for your page based upon, amongst other factors, how many sites link to your page. So, theoretically, the more sites you can get to link to the page, the higher your page rank will be. And if some or many of those sites have a higher page rank than your page, the greater chance your page rank will move up accordingly. However, we have shown and argued time and again that page rank is not really all that important. This is because we have frequently taken a page with a 0 page rank to the top of Google right over the top of high page rank pages. This proves that page rank is not all that important, all the time.”

I am not going to get into all the link building schemes here just like I didn’t back in 2008 but I will impart a little bit of our professional philosophy regarding this.

As I said here in 2008: “Link building (aka backlinks) is when you get other websites to link to yours.

I updated this article back in 2014 when I said: “We originally wrote this article and posted it here in 2008. In 6 years time a lot has changed. The article is still relevant however. One of the things that has changed is Google has pretty much done away with “page rank” per se, at least as we used to know it. There has even been speculation that they are going to “retire” pagerank. Mostly though, what we know is that if you use one of the old toolbars that measure a websites pagerank the actual pagerank of a website is seldom if ever updated. It’s been said it is only updated periodically, about once or twice a year. As to whether pagerank is going to be retired, I doubt it. Maybe as far as telling us what a sites pagerank is but not the principle of pagerank. The principle behind pagerank is how many backlinks a website has as a measure of its popularity. I don’t see this ever changing because without ability to measure a sites popularity it becomes difficult for Google to determine where to rank the site to some extent. I say to some extent because how many sites link to a website shouldn’t be the sole reason for determining relevancy.

Content is also important. But what has changed in the 6 years or so since this post was originally written is that there are now many more factors that are being used to determine “relevancy” of a website and where it should be ranked in the search engines. How many backlinks you have is still an important part of the equation. Once it was the most critical part perhaps since the site with the most backlinks had a better chance of ranking at the top. But this was widely abused and people were (and still are to some extent) buying and selling links. Google figured this out and is one reason I believe they began to downplay backlinks. At least it has become more critical to have really good, what might be called “bona fide” backlinks and to be careful about how you build them.

The biggest change perhaps has been that there are now more social signals being measured. Once, backlinks was virtually the only or perhaps best method of  a search engine determining a websites “social” popularity.” But now we have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Google Social Circles and so on. In your ongoing online marketing efforts for a website all of these need to be considered and utilized. In other words, you should have and maintain a presence on all of them since chances are third party interaction on any of these platforms that includes or mentions your website, products or business in a positive way is going to be seen and measured as part of determining your overall popularity and thus “relevance”. The more you participate as a business within these third party social platforms as well is likely to pay off in the long run. Just remember that for most of us it is along and slow process that requires patience and considerable investment of time.

Acquiring quality backlinks as well requires patience and time. There are a lot of companies offering a backlink program but in my over 15 years in this business I’ve yet to see one that wasn’t more of a scheme than a worthwhile investment. There simply is no easy way to generate good quality backlinks. It is a slow and tedious process. The best method we’ve found and used for some of our clients for a website that sells product is with the implementation of an affiliate program and using an internal affiliate link id system to track affiliate commissions. In a sense it is the perfect mix. Having the affiliate program generally means making more sales. Having the internal affiliate link id system means the affiliates don’t use tracking links, they simply use the normal website url and any traffic coming from his site to your main page will be tracked for commission purposes. Because the link on his site is not a typical affiliate link it has a better chance of having a higher value to a search engine. And it is alot easier and faster to find 100 affiliates with peer related websites than it is to find 100 peer related websites willing to blindly link to you without offering them a reciprocal link (which has less value than a one-way link).   So, backlinks are still important. Social signals are perhaps critically more important than backlinks (although a website getting lots of social signals is likely to generate some good unsolicited backlinks as well in the process). And, perhaps most important is simply having good content, regularly updating your website and building your online business with the focus of giving your visitor the best experience.

What still applies today is what I most said was important back in 2008 and again in 2014 which is “What is most important is relevant content. Content is king when it comes to getting to the top of search engines. Knowing how to write and optimize content that gets to the top of search engines is critical. And this is where a search engine professional comes in because a true professional knows how to achieve this. Don’t get me wrong, having good quality backlinks is important too and a site should devote some of its efforts and time in slowly building up the backlinks. And it is important that they have a good mix of relevant content known as “anchor text”. The information in the link leading to the page should have a few of the relevant keywords or a phrase related to what the page is about and this should be mixed up a little bit so not every backlink says the same thing. If you do employ a backlink campaign be certain you use a true professional and be careful as too much could actually harm your site more than help it.  

Too, in 2014 I mentioned the importance of social signals. This is where people talk abuot you on other websites, talk about you on facebook. click your link in a search engine, talk about you on other social platforms, tweet about you, etc. You can have very few backlinks and generate a ton of traffic and ries to the top of search engines just because alot of people are talking about you, mentioning your name.

It is simply common sense. If there are thousands of people out there with similar products and/or similar content how is any search engine going to determine that you are more relevant or important than the next guy? Used to be it was backlinks. That was an obvious signal because the more people interested in linking to you the more likely you were relevant. But from the standpoint of a search engine trying to design its software to figure this out it is obvious this is a factor that can be controlled or manipulated by the very site in question. So it becomes obvious that this as a measure of popularity is going to be taken with a grain of salt and measured against other factors. What you cannot easily manipulate or control is other people talking about you. This becomes the true measure of so-called popularity and thus the one indicator to a major search engine you must have something worth talking about, worth thinking about and thus, likely relevant to whatever the conversation is about.

So if what you sell is widgets and there is a ton of people out there talking about your widgets, saying the are the nicest, the best priced, the widget company with the best service, etc., chances are you will rise to the top.

You still need to do what I call SEO 101 which is apply all of the best principles and practices of overall presentation of your website both in terms of visitor experience and search engine marketing. Unless you go “viral” and everyone is talking so great about you you are just getting overwhelmed with traffic, (which is always nice of course) in such case it hardly matters what you do or don’t do. But otherwise, you apply all of the best practices and you ALSO concentrate on getting people to talk about you.

So in my mind the best advice is “get people talking about you.”

How is this accomplished?

Here are a few ideas:

Produce shareable content.

Come up with a clever hashtag and get people to using it.

Offer services to causes that align with your interests.

Business Insider says: “Send out a thought-provoking question related to your industry on Twitter. Make it something people care about — an interesting trend, results of study, a surprising report or something in the news. Link back to more info on your website, blog or Facebook page. Use a Twitter hashtag, which mark keywords or topics in tweets, to keep track of the conversation.

Provide a world class customer service experience to your existing customers.

Find and connect up with influencers in your industry or that can help you industry and would have interest in who you are or what you do.

Pay people to talk about you such as giving coupons or commissions for referrals (or operate an affiliate program).

Stay involved in social marketing it is a longer road to travel generally but in the long run will pay off more than just about anything else you can do. Forget abut link building and page rank, social marketing is the new way to go for most business as it covers all of the bases.